Scenario release and public poll

We asked 400 city and traffic experts which trends they thought will be the most powerful for future cities and transportation. From these trends we constructed three scenarios – Free City, Techno City, Eco City. These were illustraded as “postcards from the future” for Stockholm’s inner city, inner and outer suburbia. Three sites were selected for each of the urban environments and photographed (below).

sveavägen_nuläge Innercity 2015

sköntorpsvägen_nuläge Inner suburbia 2015

Bällstavägen_nuläge Outer suburbia 2015

These photos were then re-illustrated in Photoshop according to the scenario descriptions.

Free City 2050

In this future the economy recovered from that early recession – but at the cost of citizen trust in the government.  Investors and business people grew protective of their assets, and everyone scrambled to create wealth.  Only a few were successful.  Stockholm’s hedonist class focus their investments and lifestyles on an ever-denser inner city.  The historical centre is a luxury playground, as are exclusive new condominiums.  The gated mansions of the inner suburbs sprawl into the outer suburbs, which in turn encroach on the countryside. Streetscapes are a mosaic of brand logos, and in the streets themselves glossy luxury cars jostle with the ageing vehicles of the downsliding middle class.  Public transport? Business tax shelters have lowered government revenues, and the government can barely maintain the old system, much less extend it.

sveavägen_market city Innerciity Free City 2050sköntorpsvägen_market city Inner suburbia Free City 2050

Bällstavägen_market city Outer suburbia Free City 2050


Techno City 2050

The global digital transformation revitalised the world economy – and decentralised it. Starting with one good idea, entrepreneurs can now create products and services overnight.  Everyone’s a small business owner, and everyone’s more prosperous. Government uses smart technologies to control infrastructure and governmental services. This means new integrity issues. Density is distributed: every neighbourhood has its own ‘central business district’ but there is still a dense “downtown”.  Terabit per second wifi and embedded, wearable ICT immerse people in streaming media, beamed to their retinas, flowing across building surfaces, and lighting up the streets and sidewalks as they pass by.  Self-driving transport pods for individuals or groups come when called and act as modular mass transit.  With transport on demand, fewer personal cars clog the roads and suburbs. The environmental impact is high. New technologies like drones and pods create new problems such as noise, security issues and traffic fatalities.

sveavägen_techno city Innercity Techno City 2050

sköntorpsvägen_techno city Inner suburbia Techno City 2050

Bällstavägen_techno city Outer suburbia Techno City 2050


Eco City 2050

Climate change created lots of damage to world economies. Energy production peaked and retrofitting transport infrastructure to use low-density energy sources is now big business.  Social values stress ecosystem stewardship and disdain consumerism, and a strong state that controls nature and culture values.  With society refocussed towards self-reliance, the outer suburbs and countryside are popular for people who want to grow their own food:  intensive yard gardeners compete in neighbourhood food fairs. Outer suburban sprawl declines due to higher transport costs. City parks also see public food gardens, and apartment dwellers convert balconies to small greenhouses.  Strong environmental regulations ban cars from most city streets. Walking, biking, and small electric run-abouts are common for short distances, and automated low-carbon public transport links neighbourhoods, communities, and more compact city centres.

sveavägen_eco city Innercity Eco City 2050

sköntorpsvägen_eco city Inner suburbia Eco City 2050

Bällstavägen_eco city Outer suburbia Eco City 2050

March 12 2015 these “postcards from the future” were published on four pages in Sweden’s biggest dialy newspaper Dagens Nyheter and on the newspaper’s website for a public poll. Readers were here able to vote on the three scenarios, which one they liked the most.

The results of the poll was April 4, 2015, in total 3356 votes. For each scenario the voting was as follows.

FREE CITY: 414 votes
TECHNO CITY: 1491 votes
ECO CITY: 1451 votes

The scenarios and the result of this poll will be discussed at the final conference CITYMOVES May 29 in Stockholm. More info at













We are proud to announce that the website is now live! is the official home of the online scenario planning system for the Post-Car(d) Urbanism project.

The site lets you add trends which you think will be important to the future of Swedish cities and transport.  You can also rate, discuss and evaluate other people’s trends, selecting the ones you think will be most important.  Finally, you can “mix and remix” various urban futures using the “scenario story mixer”.

We will be running the scenario creation phase of the project through the month of January, 2013.  These will generate all the material necessary to create urban transport scenarios for the team’s sophisticated land use transport simulation models.

Part of the value of the Post-Car(d) Urbanism project likes in exploring the possibilities and utility of such online, crowdsourced approaches to social science research.  Online scenario creation is a new and rapidly developing research area with many unanswered questions.

This part of the project represents an important test case for generating research data using such systems.  In addition to creating the necessary scenarios for Phase 2, we anticipate uncovering a range of interesting findings about the method itself.

The crowdsourcing site is now live and active.  Go to now to log in and help crowdsource the future of cities in Sweden!

Walkability drives Europe´s fastest growing housing market

Stadskvalitet_engStockholm is the fastest growing city in Western Europe. What then is so attractive here, except thriving businesses and a healthy environment? A recent big study shows that the housing market is basically driven by walkability.

The Stockholm Regional Planning Office along with the municipalities of Stockholm, Lidingö, Nacka and Haninge commissioned spatial analysts at Spacescape and economists at Evidens to conduct this study, where 7000 apartment sales in 2011 were correlated with 1000 (!) different spatial and location variables. It is very big data study – it is plausible that there never have been conducted such a comprehensive hedonic urban housing study before, in Sweden or elsewhere.

Spatial analyses were performed with advanced GIS technology on a big geographic database of Stockholm metropolitan region. Among the analyzed and measured variables are various attractions such as access to retail, green areas, water areas, public transport, schools, health centers, density, urban space etc. Accessibility to these attractions were analyzed at address level with different distance measures;  walking, biking distance, street network distance, travel time by public transport and car. Urban design and morphology was also analyzed such as density, block design, entrance locations, building heights, building structure. A big set of social and economic variables were also tested such as income, education, unemployment, and age.

The hedonic statistical analysis includes a regression analysis with the 7000 individual purchases. The regression also included fees and apartment size. Apartment prices are here used as a measure of willingness to pay and attractiveness of housing. The study does not include single-family homes. Previous studies show that willingness to pay for tenant-owned apartments are the same as rental, i.e. this study is also relevant for rental apartments. The analysis results show the willingness to pay given today’s values ​​and what is on the housing market today, and is thus a response to today’s supply and demand. This can obviously change in the future.

The results show that only eight variables capture the price variation by more than 90% accuracy. Seven of the variables consist of pure spatial elements as result of urban morphology and the eighth is a control variable that is a socioeconomic index. A similar hedonic study was made in also fast growing city of Oslo 2008 with very similar outcomes when it comes to WTP for certain urban location qualities.

The seven urban qualities are

Stadskvaliteterna_lista engThese seven urban qualities have not surprised planners and real estate people in the region. Rather it confirms what is already known that people in Stockholm search for walkability and high quality public space. For the politicians it has been an important proof that their vision for Stockholm as “The Walkable City” is correct and is supported by the market.

The Urban Quality Model is now used for market analysis in urban planning projects. It is also used for urban design analysis and to evaluate plan options. In a broader perspective, this study provides a better basis to more accurately analyze and discuss about economic sustainability.

This spring Spacescape and economists at the Copenhagen University is conducting a similar study of Copenhagen and Aarhus for the Danish government. Results of this study will be presented in the fall of 2012.


Activity based models and the post (personal) car society

As a way of introducing myself as a member of this blog’s authors I’d like to tell you a little about what I’ve been doing the last little while, though it has only been incidentally connected to the PostCar(d) project. One of the things I’m working on, with a group of colleagues, is to develop models of travel behaviour based on the ideas of time geography (Hägerstrand, 1970).

Time geography, by Sikelianos, Flickr
The development in the field of transport modelling is more or less all about Activity Based Models (ABM) these days. For a long time models were designed to capture the number of trips people did to different destinations and with different modes of transport. At the same time, it has also been long recognised that daily travel demand should be viewed as being derived from whatever schedule of activities you want to do during your day. But neither data available nor the theory has been up to the job of moving the idea of derived demand from concept into practical models.
We are working hard on a model of scheduling of activities which has the potential to both respect the various constraints* people have and have a sound econometric basis so that it can be estimated against observations. Doing both has thus far been hard because these models have a nasty habit of producing incredibly large (as in degrees of freedom and computational burden) mathematical problems to solve. We have found a reasonable mix of simplification and brute computation that seems to work, though.
So what does this have to do with post car urbanism? One distinct improvement concerns accessibility. By taking time space constraints into account, accessibility becomes not only a measure of how attractive something is as a destination of a trip, but how well you can combine different activites there. It is likely that you can fulfil more of your desired activities in a nice walkable city center with a multitude of activity opportunities in one place than by flitting about in a car between many places.
As I see it one role of models when we want to construct visions of the future is to provide a reality check in the sense that you’ll want to check your assumptions against a model with reasonable human behaviour. But you can’t use just any model as a reality check for far reaching future scenarios. Most importantly it can’t be too locked to current behaviour or trends. This is where a model with a time geography basis shines, since a lot of people’s behaviour is governed by their very real constraints in time and space, leaving less (relatively speaking) to estimated parameters (or attitudes if you will). So if your attempts to influence behaviour runs up against people’s constraints and commitments to family and work you will likely accomplish less than you thought.
Comments are of course welcome, and I’ll probably come back to these things in the future too.
* An example would be if you only have an hour between getting off work and some other committment (e.g. picking up a family member) there are only so many things you can do in the meantime, and none of them can have more than an hour of combined travel time getting from work and to your next fixed activity.
Hägerstrand, T. 1970. ‘What About People in Regional Science?’ Regional Science Association Papers      24: 7–21.

Conclusions from a workshop

1-3 march the project team did a workshop on core methodology and research theory. We concluded after hours of discussions that we will stick to the initial research plan however with a slight more open-ended approach to future urbanism. The project benchmarks really are 1) the participatory crowd-sourced scenario process, 2) linking scenarios to land use-transportation models at the urban scale, 3) translating the output to publicly accessible representations (postcards), 4) formulating policy implications for urban and transport planning on the bases of the three former steps.

We discussed the major forces affecting urban transport in the future and concluded that it will definitively include at least these three factors; 1) Energy prices, 2) Environment politics, 3) Lifestyle choices.  As for now the future of fuel prices are uncertain, since new sources of energy are found and invented. Some say peak oil, others say new opportunities arise. Environmental politics have been highlighted in recent decades under the heading ‘climate change’, however policies are changing due to tech-optimistic so called ‘new environmentalism’. If we can better integrate urban systems with ecosystems then urbanism is no longer a threat but a possibility to enhance ecological resilience. Part of this line of thinking is definitively the theories and ideas of “smart growth” and “sustainable urbanism”. When it comes to lifestyle choices the development has been towards car-cities for a long time, however walk-cities are definitively on the rise in innovative clusters and in the realm of service-knowledge economy.  An important question is whether new means of “smart transportation” will attract the “smart people” increasing the demand for denser greener walkable urbanism. This we do not know yet…


Excellent Mobility Scenarios for 2025

Last year, the UK-based sustainability think tank Forum for the Future released a series of excellent urban mobility scenarios, called Megacities on the Move.

This project highlights four possible transport outcomes for the mobility challenges of 2025. These are:

  1. Planned-opolis: In a world of fossil fuels and expensive energy, the only solution is tightly planned and controlled urban transport
  2. Sprawl-ville: The city is dominated by fossil fuel-powered cars. The elite still gets around, but most urban dwellers face poor transport infrastructure.
  3. Renew-abad: The world has turned to alternative energy, and high-tech, clean, well-planned transport helps everyone get around.
  4. Communi-city: The world has turned to alternative energy, and transport is highly personalised with a huge variety of transport modes competing for road space.

Aside from being excellent examples of scenario development, the findings of this research are directly relevant to the Post-Car(d) Urbanism project.

The full research report (pdf) can be found here.

Newman and Kenworthy on Peak Car Use

Urban planning luminaries Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy write about the new phenomena of “peak car use“.

Our new data now shows that the period 1995-2005 had a growth in car use per capita of just 5.1 per cent.

In the 26 cities that comprise the 1995-2005 percentage increase in car vehicle kilometers travelled per capita, we are beginning to see some cities that have actually declined.

Some European cities show this pattern: London has declined 1.2 per cent, Stockholm 3.7 per cent, Vienna 7.6 per cent and Zurich 4.7 per cent.

In the US, Atlanta went down 10.1 per cent, Houston 15.2 per cent, (both from extraordinarily high levels of car use in 1995), Los Angeles declined 2.0 per cent and San Francisco 4.8 per cent.

Peak car use appears to be happening. It is a major historical discontinuity that was largely unpredicted by most urban professionals and academics. So what is causing this to occur?

They examine six factors for why this might be the case:

  1. Hitting the Marchetti wall
  2. Growth of public transport
  3. Reversal of urban sprawl
  4. Aging of cities
  5. Growth of a culture of urbanism
  6. Rise in fuel prices
They conclude that (emphasis added):

The phenomenon of peak car use appears to have set in to the cities of the developed world. It seems to be due to a combination of: technological limits set by the inability of cars to continue causing urban sprawl within travel time budgets; the rapid growth in transit and re-urbanisation which combine to cause exponential declines in car use; the reduction of car use by older people in cities and amongst younger people due to the emerging culture of urbanism, and the growth in the price of fuel which underlies all of the above factors.

The implications for traffic engineers, planners, financiers and economists is a paradigm shift in their professional understanding of what makes a good city in the 21st century.  It does however point to the demise of automobile dependence.

Full article here.

Team Member Noah Raford Publishes a Critique of Bad Design Fiction

Design fiction is the practice of combining creative multimedia and product design techniques to communicate (and explore) future socio-economic scenarios.

Part of the Post-Car(d) Urbanism project is to use design fiction to engage stakeholders in a new discussion of how social, economic and environmental changes will impact transport in the built environment.

The approach can be tremendously powerful when done well.  In the right hands, video and visual design futures are help to stimulate, educate and provoke discussion around complex issues and in-depth research.  Done poorly, however, it becomes little more than a big budget commercial set in the future.

In this post written for a general audience, team member Noah Raford explores the use and abuse of design fiction in research and industry.  He suggests five principles for creating good design fiction that effectively engage stakeholders around real issues.  These are:

  1. Don’t stare at your navel: Yes, you may be a glass company (or soda company or whatever), but that doesn’t mean the world revolves around glass.  Futures and scenario planning is about exploring how larger, external factors will impact your market segment over time.  Many changes internal to your market are likely to influence the future (technology, etc.), but the more important ones will likely have to do with forces outside of your control (the economy, attitudes towards consumption, political disposition, etc.).  Consider how a broader array of forces will impact who your customers are, what they care about and how this might affect your product.
  2. Don’t extrapolate to infinity: It is a natural human tendency to look at today’s trends and extrapolate them into the future forever.  Don’t.  Instead, look at the system of forces which drive or hinder change in your industry, then play those out in a systematic way.
  3. Don’t fetishize technology: In short, social change matters more than technological change.  See Andrew Curry’s excellent “The 1910 Time Traveller” for more detail.
  4. Don’t ignore what people care about: What is really important to the segment you are trying to reach?  Often, it is themselves and the people around them. If you sell a product targeted at young, technology savvy people, consider what makes them tick.  Do they care about IP?  Do they like to share or horde?  Are they private or public?  Consider how (and why) people will interact differently relative to these issues in the future.  Who will be in charge?  Where will they work?  How will they feel about each other?  The emotional, social aspects of the future are far more important to most people than the technological and material ones.  The more you connect with issues that people care about, but in a new or surprising way, the more people will care about your production and the more effective your videos will be.
  5. Don’t dumb it down: You don’t have to write a thesis on identity politics in the 21st century in order to do a good futures video.  But don’t ignore the things that are likely to effect your subject in the future, either.  Most people, especially those viewing your work on the web, will be relatively savvy and sophisticated viewers; doubly so if they actually care about the subject at hand.  The more layers and sophistication you can add, the more they’ll appreciate and enjoy the money you spent thinking about it.

Post Car Cities Competing

Many big cities in the developed world has started to realize that car oriented urbanism is not a competitive advantage. We see city after city preparing and planning for a post car urban world, not foremost for climate change and post peak oil reasons, but for reasons of global competitiveness. Policy makers at the highest levels are preparing for change. New York has slowly started to renegotiate its public realm. Dublin just released a city plan to make room for more bikes and pedestrians. Copenhagen just proclaimed itself as “City for cyclists”. The City Plan for Stockholm is called “The Walkable City”. This list is much longer.

Can you help us make a global policy making track record? Leave your tips by leaving a reply on this post.